How to Get Your Child Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten

Information for Parents | Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

How to Get Your Child Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten | Johns Hopkins Medicine

If your child needs special accommodations for a physical, medical, mental health, or other disability, please visit Summer Programs Disability Services for more information. Related questions can be directed to CTY staff at 410-735-6215 or

Working with a Child Reluctant to Attend

It’s not uncommon for first-time students to be apprehensive about attending CTY. They may feel unsure about being away from home for three weeks or about spending some of their summer inside a classroom. These concerns can put parents in a difficult position.

There is a fine line between encouraging children to overcome normal apprehension and forcing them into a situation for which they are not yet ready.

Although many initially nervous students later report being grateful that their parents encouraged them to attend CTY, we do not recommend sending a very reluctant child to the program.

Supporting Your Child

Parents are a vital component of a successful summer. The demanding nature of the academic program and the residential setting are often new to students.

We encourage you, well in advance of the session, to discuss with our staff any issues that may affect your child’s experience in the classroom or residence hall.

The following advice can help you prepare your child for success in the classroom:

  • Speak with your child about what it’s to live in an inclusive community. Students at CTY have a variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions which they may choose to share freely. While this can create an uncomfortable moment or two in the beginning, we feel strongly that the diversity of communities at our sites makes CTY an especially rewarding academic and social experience.
  • Encourage your child to take advantage of opportunities to meet new people. Often, particularly in the first few days, the comfort of solitary activities ( reading a book or talking on the phone) may come at the expense of meeting people with shared interests.
  • Emphasize that working through inconveniences ( sharing a room or a bathroom) can lead to great rewards and is well worth the close friendships your child will build.
  • Encourage your child to share experiences and concerns with staff members. Feedback on the activities that students participate in, as well as the issues they are facing (such as roommate conflicts or struggles in class), helps us to provide a supportive and enjoyable environment.
  • Review the CTY Honor Code and expectations for student conduct with your child. Students fully committed to all aspects of the program, including the rules, report the highest levels of satisfaction with their experience.

During the summer, we encourage parents to contact site administrators if a child is encountering difficulties so that we can work together to help the student.

Homesick Students

Being away from home, especially for the first time, can be difficult, so we make every effort to create a supportive environment. Site administrators are trained to assist students who are having trouble adjusting to the program.

If your child becomes homesick, contact a site administrator (such as the academic counselor) for ideas on helping your child adapt to the new environment. Keep in mind that frequent contact with your child may prolong homesickness.

Please give your child a few days to become comfortable at CTY; nearly all students who initially experience homesickness ultimately succeed in and enjoy their summer experience.


Coronavirus report: Massachusetts may not be ready to reopen until June

How to Get Your Child Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten | Johns Hopkins Medicine


Massachusetts may not be ready to open up until June, more than a month after Gov. Charlie Baker is considering ending nonessential business and school closures, experts at Johns Hopkins University say.

Read the full Johns Hopkins report here…

Massachusetts’ stay-at-home advisory does not yet have an end date, but Baker has said schools and nonessential businesses may reopen by May 4, although he has said his administration is considering extending that date.

That’s the advice of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, which says that June 8 is the earliest Massachusetts should reopen, with the right measures in place to contain the coronavirus.

“Longer is better,” Dr. Christopher Murray, the institute’s director and professor of global health, said in a webinar Friday.

In a new report, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said states should consider initiating the reopening process only when:

  • the number of new cases has declined for at least 14 days;
  • rapid diagnostic testing capacity is sufficient to test, at minimum, all people with COVID-19 symptoms, including mild cases, as well as close contacts and those in essential roles;
  • the health-care system is able to safely care for all patients, including providing personal protective equipment for health-care workers; and
  • there is sufficient public health capacity to trace people with whom all new cases have come into contact.

The center cautioned, however, that even when states do reopen, people should work from home if possible or wear a cloth mask to work.

Governors should consider reopening in phases separated by two to three weeks, the report said. If coronavirus case counts, hospitalizations and deaths go up in that time, officials should pause further steps in reopening and take measures to get control of the rising numbers, if necessary re-imposing social distancing interventions, the center said.

Bars and large concert and sport venues all have high-contact intensity, the report said, while retailers and shopping malls have low-contact intensity.

“What we don’t want are the conditions that led to us having to stay home in the first place,” Rivers said, “but if cases begin to increase again, there may come a time when we all need to do that.”

Officials should consider modifying public transportation to make it safer, with lower ridership and more spacing between people, the center said.

If schools are reopened, most kids will be at low risk of severe infection themselves, the report said, but some children with underlying conditions will be at higher risk, as will some parents, teachers and staff.

Some parents may elect to not allow their children back in school, the center said, so schools that reopen will need to decide whether to also offer tele-education, the institute said.


How I Got Accepted to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

How to Get Your Child Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten | Johns Hopkins Medicine

This is just one in a series of blog posts that will feature medical students telling their stories of how they got accepted into medical school. Today, Abby shares with us the story of her acceptance to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Abby, give us a peek into your life. What initially attracted you to pursue medicine?

In one of my favorite novels, Middlemarch, George Eliot beautifully articulates somewhat of an anthem I have adopted for my life. And though this is not directly answering the question, I think it gives a significant amount of insight into my life, and I’d love to share this quote:

It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self – never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timing, scrupulous and dim-sighted.

I will touch on this text throughout the following questions and responses; however, it will suffice to say that the desire to be “fully possessed by the glory we behold” and “liberated from a small hungry shivering self,” have been significant motivators throughout much of my life.

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I spent much of my childhood swimming competitively and reading books. I developed a love of story early on in my life – which has informed much of my desire to go into medicine.

I lived in the Washington D.C. area throughout high school, and was involved in different varsity sports and student government. I then received a B.A. in University Scholars from Baylor University, where I concentrated in Medical Humanities, Great Texts of the Western Civilization, and Spanish.

As you can tell by my major, I was not the typical pre-medical student in college.

I did not involve myself in any of the nationwide pre-health organizations and did not spend time doing bench research (although those are great things too).

Instead, I involved myself in my church, I was a co-founder of a pre-health organization that explored the intersection of faith and medicine, I trained for different running races with friends, I spent a semester studying abroad in the Netherlands, and I joined a sorority.

During my summers throughout undergrad, I pursued what I was passionate about and knew I would not get the chance to do again. I worked as a camp counselor for middle school kiddos one summer. I helped with clinical research at a pediatric clinic another summer.

I also travelled to Kenya and later worked for the Chief Medical Officer of a hospital in Dallas, Texas, helping with surgical site infection research.

As one might guess from what I involved myself throughout undergrad, much of my initial attraction to medicine was due to my wide variety of interests.

I love literature – I learned that in medicine you get the privilege of listening to story after story with every patient you encounter.

I love learning – I learned that in medicine you never stop learning.

I love teaching – I learned that in medicine you get to teach your patients and your peers.

I love the gift of helping others – I learned that in medicine, if done well, you have the gift of intersecting with people’s lives in some of their most vulnerable moments.

Therefore, I was initially attracted to medicine because I found no other profession that combined interpersonal excellence, technical skill, and the thrill of studying the intricate body. Throughout high school and undergrad, I shadowed many physicians to learn these characteristics of medicine – and decided that I would love to spend my day-job practicing medicine.

[ALSO READ]: The Best Pre-Med Major Isn’t Biology

“…it will suffice to say that the desire to be ‘fully possessed by the glory we behold’ and ‘liberated from a small hungry shivering self,’ have been significant motivators throughout much of my life.”

Why did you choose to apply to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine?

I applied to Johns Hopkins Medical School, along with 15 other schools, during the summer between my junior and senior years at Baylor University. I applied to Johns Hopkins for quite a few reasons. If I am being completely honest, I initially applied because of the prestige of the program.

However, after I was accepted to Johns Hopkins, I began learning more about why Johns Hopkins was where I wanted to go.

I decided that I owed it to my future patients and to myself to become the best physician that I possibly could, and that necessarily included getting the best education and most exposure possible.

I learned that if I wanted to become a leader within the field of medicine, the medical school that I picked would serve as a launching pad.

I am passionate about using my medical degree as a platform to advocate for those who have no voice, specifically those with profound intellectual or physical disability. I knew Johns Hopkins would give me an incredible platform from which to do this and also expose me to a lot of challenging thought and research within the field.

What are three reasons why you think you were accepted?

That is a great question – I ask myself this daily!

In all seriousness, I think this is a difficult question to answer. How does one not get a secondary application from Vanderbilt, and yet get accepted to Johns Hopkins? Much of the process is hard to interpret; however, I will speak simply from the perception I received as I interviewed.

When I sat down with my Hopkins faculty interviewer, he threw my application on the table and let out a long sigh.

He looked at me and said the following: “I read countless applications. Every applicant is interested in ‘helping other people’ and every applicant has a desire to change the healthcare system.

 You also want to help people and be a leader in policy change, but there is something different in your application. As I read about your time in Kenya, I knew that you left changed.

You did not go to fill your resume, but rather you went because you are truly passionate about people – and I can see it in your writing.”

All this to say: interviewers can read through the essays – therefore, only write what you are passionate about – only do what you are passionate about.

This will lead to my second reason I believe I got in, and that is because I took a very non-traditional approach to medical school.

I was not involved in the “mandatory” pre-medical organizations (there is nothing wrong with them, I was just not interested).

I did not major in biology (not because there is anything wrong with that – we need people to major in biology – but because I was not interested!).

I definitely do not have all the answers, but during an interview it becomes very obvious whether or not one is simply intrigued by the idea of going into medicine or is committing to making medicine better

Lastly, I believe I got into Johns Hopkins because I had thought deeply about healthcare policy, the future of healthcare, and my role in shaping the future of medicine. I definitely do not have all the answers, but during an interview it becomes very obvious whether or not one is simply intrigued by the idea of going into medicine or is committing to making medicine better.

I have strong opinions about different policies and principles that are operating within modern medicine and I took a stand for what I believed in throughout the interview. Therefore, I think my ability to speak about how I envisioned myself contributing to and shaping the field of medicine helped me get into Johns Hopkins.

“I was afraid to admit it to anyone, but I thought the faculty interviewer would try his best to get me in.”

After my Johns Hopkins interview, I felt wonderful. I was afraid to admit it to anyone, but I thought the faculty interviewer would try his best to get me in.

I already touched on the nature of how the interview went in the previous question; however, I will add that as I left the interview room, my interviewer said: “I cannot wait to read the book that you will write during your time at Johns Hopkins.

” I was, needless to say, shocked, as I left the room. However, the other parts of my interview day were difficult to interpret.

Though the faculty interview went well, much of the rest of the day felt a failure on my end. I did not feel I connected well with the other interviewees or students. I also met certain faculty members that rubbed me initially the wrong way. I also was unimpressed with Baltimore as a city.

Therefore, I left unsettled about how the entire day went. This made it incredibly difficult as I made my decision whether or not to go to Johns Hopkins.

However, looking back, it is almost comical as I think of my fears in not connecting well with other students and not loving Baltimore, insofar as those are two of the best things about Hopkins.

I am thoroughly impressed by everyone I meet at Johns Hopkins: faculty, staff, and peers.  I also love Baltimore and could see myself living here for a long time.

Take us through the moment you found out you got accepted.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my family when I saw my phone light up across the table and start vibrating. I do not understand iPhone technology, but sometimes it will guess who is calling by saying “Maybe: _____.” In this case, I did not know the number, but it said it was from Baltimore, MD and from “Maybe: V. Mazza.”

I did not pick up the phone, but instead quickly googled “V. Mazza, Baltimore.”  First thing to pop up was V. Mazza: Admissions Director at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. I panicked and could not touch my phone for at least 5 minutes.

I then got the courage up to return her call. Ms. Mazza explained to me that I was accepted to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and that I would have 5 days to make my decision.

(I had been wait-listed and this was her notification that I had been pulled off of the wait-list and extended an invitation to attend).

In that moment I knew that I would never deny Johns Hopkins. However, I had already committed to a medical school that was much closer to friends and family, was much cheaper, and that I was much more comfortable with.

It was honestly a difficult decision, but I knew that I wanted the best training possible for both my sake and my patients’ sakes. Therefore, I picked Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and could not be more grateful.

Others can imitate my success by choosing to never try and imitate another’s success.

I know that sounds an easy way the question, but I would never recommend someone to arrive at a destination such as medicine in a specific way. If there is one thing I have learned in my first 3 months at medical school, it is that there are countless paths to a myriad of destinations within medicine. Success looks incredibly different for each person.

I have peers who went to community college, joined the military, and are now at Hopkins. I have another peer that was an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil for 7 years and then decided she wanted to go into medicine. I know some faculty members that went to medical schools that many people do not know exist, and ended up as top researchers and physicians at Johns Hopkins.

The common thread between everyone I know at Johns Hopkins, however, is that they pursued what they were passionate about.

Just as there are countless ways to practice medicine and engage in healthcare, there are countless ways of arriving. Therefore, I would suggest (though it is cliché), investing time and energy in what you are passionate about.

My recommendation is to heed the advice given in the Middlemarch quote in the first question – to be fully possessed by the glory we behold – whether that be the joy of watching a child be born, holding the hand of a dying hospice patient, living close to family and attending a medical school that is not as well known, or maybe attending one of the top medical schools and engaging deeply in the learning all-around – it will look different for everyone, but that is the beauty and excitement of it!


Turning blue babies pink: Alfred Blalock’s shunt for Fallot’s Tetralogy

How to Get Your Child Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten | Johns Hopkins Medicine

In 1946 a programme of exchanging clinical teachers was established between Guy’s Hospital in London and Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.

The idea had arisen during the Second World War while Rowan Boland, who returned to be dean of the medical school at Guy’s, was serving alongside American military doctors with the allied forces’ medical services in North Africa and the Mediterranean.

He wrote to Dr Alan Chesney, his counterpart at Johns Hopkins Hospital, that the ‘object of the exchange would be to maintain the friendship, cooperation and exchange of ideas which has been one of the better things which have come this War’. The proposal was accepted on both sides and it was decided that Dr Alfred Blalock would be the first to come to Guy’s (Treasure 2017).

Blalock (Fig 1) had by then already achieved remarkable success in dramatically improving the lives of ‘blue babies’ by operation (Blalock and Taussig 1945). The most common underlying cause was Fallot’s Tetralogy.

The two key components of the constellation of anatomical features are a ventricular septal defect and restriction of the outflow from the right ventricle. This obstruction forces most of the deoxygenated blood to pass through the septal defect, bypass the lungs, and be pumped into the systemic circulation. This results in unremitting cyanosis.

The text book edited by Conybeare, Guy’s senior physician, taught that cyanosis ‘is so characteristic that “blue baby” and congenital heart disease are practically synonymous’ (Conybeare 1946).

Any exertion, crying or feeding increased the oxygen demand and with even less oxygen being delivered to the brain, these children could sporadically lapse into unconsciousness. Furthermore, the teaching was that there was little or nothing which could be done to help (Campbell 1946).

Guy’s welcome to Alfred Blalock

Alfred Blalock arrived at Guy’s for a month’s stay in September 1947. Dr Maurice Campbell had been seeking out suitable cases for Blalock to operate on (Campbell 1947). Mr Hedley Atkins, the director of surgery, arranged for beds and operating time to be available (Treasure 2017).

During his stay, Blalock operated on 10 children. He performed an operation in which the subclavian artery was mobilised and anastomosed end to side into the pulmonary artery. (Fig.2).

Within moments of the vascular clamp being removed from the subclavian artery the oxygen saturation of the blood rose and the cyanosis lessened markedly. In a lecture to Guy’s students in October 1947, about six weeks later, Dr Campbell said: ‘…a few words about the actual results in these cases.

Many of you have seen them in the wards and observed the improvement while they were there. Last week I saw the first three back at the hospital for the first time since they had been discharged. I was almost alarmed at the amount they were doing.

… I did not appreciate how much a child, suddenly relieved of his lifelong disability might want to do. … One of them who had rarely walked more than about 10 yards is now running about all day; the parents say it is very difficult to stop him doing anything’ (Campbell 1947).

Observation of dramatic association as evidence of causality

The contemporary eye witness account (Campbell 1947) and the published results (Campbell 1948; Baker et al.

1949) indicate that the paper announcing the first three operations published in 1945 by Alfred Blalock and Helen Taussig (Blalock and Taussig 1945) merits a place in the James Lind Library as an instance in which a change in symptoms could be reliably attributed to the intervention on the basis of before and after observation alone.

It meets all of the criteria suggested by Glasziou and his colleagues (Glasziou et al. 2007). The beneficial effect was immediately evident (Fig.3), the changed physiology had a clear mechanistic relationship to the intervention, and the difference in the clinical state of the child was large and sustained.

It is also noteworthy that the results of the operation were consistent and could be replicated: Blalock went on to Paris to do more operations before returning home.

While he was in London it was arranged that he would give the Moynihan lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons on his experience in 610 cases (Blalock and Bahnson 1948).

The subclavian flow was usually about right to substantially improve oxygenation but not to harm the pulmonary vasculature. Also there was uncertainty as to whether the continuing presence of the ventricular septal defect would nullify any benefit from the shunt.

Neither was predictable; fortune favoured the brave. It was not possible to complete the physiological correction by closing the septal defect until the mid-1950s at the Mayo Clinic (Kirklin et al. 1955; 1956) and a few years later in London.

Blalock and Taussig were prominent speakers at the International Conference of Physicians meeting held at the Royal College of Physicians 8-13 September 1947.

Theirs and other contributions to surgery of congenital heart disease by Crafoord and Tubbs were reported in the next issue of the BMJ (Taussig et al. 1947a) and the Lancet (Taussig et al.

1947b) on 20th September and written up in full in the British Heart Journal (Taussig et al. 1948).

The Johns Hopkins team

As a paediatrician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Helen Taussig had made the astute clinical observation that among children with Fallot’s Tetralogy those in whom the ductus arteriosus remained open seemed to have better exercise tolerance. The operation was probably her brain child and there were no doubt others who deserved credit.

In Alfred Blalock’s animal laboratory, however, there was a black technician, Vivien Thomas, who should rightly have a mention here. Working on janitor’s pay he did the experimental surgery for Blalock. It was Thomas who successfully made the systemic to pulmonary shunt in the laboratory.

At a time in Baltimore when black workers came and went through the back door of the hospital, for the first operations on patients, Blalock had Thomas stand close in behind him at the operating table, against all convention, so that he could quietly give words of advice and encouragement to his chief.

However, it was Hank Bahnson, not Vivien Thomas, that Blalock brought with him to London (Treasure 2017). It was only years later, in 1976, that the contributions of Vivien Thomas were formally recognised with an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins’ choice of Blalock to be the first exchange visitor was fortunate for Guy’s. Russell Brock was one of the surgeons who had developed thoracic surgery as a specialty in the 1930s and he was poised to begin operating on the heart.

Operations for coarctation of the aorta and persistent ductus arteriosus were already in the repertoire and from 1947 he continued and extended surgery on Fallot’s Tetralogy (Treasure 2017).

The Guy’s team wrote up the clinical details and results in the first 17 patients in 1948 (Campbell 1948) and by January 1949 an account of their first 50 operations for morbus cœruleus were ready for publication in the British Heart Journal (Baker et al. 1949).

They reported 200 Blalock operations in the British Medical Journal in 1953 (Campbell and Deuchar 1953).

The Peacock Club

Brock wanted to not only palliate cyanosis by an operation adjacent to the heart but he wanted to operate, within the heart, to relieve stenosis. His use of the word ‘intracardiac’ was quite deliberate. Speaking at the Royal Society of Medicine in April 1951 he explained his strategy:

Intracardiac surgery is not for the lone worker. Team work is essential. To give one example, at Guy’s there is a group of some 15 people actively engaged in the work, and as time passes we find that more and more are drawn into the team (Brock 1951).

This group was the Peacock Club (Treasure 2017). Brock convened a meeting to bring cardiology, radiology, clinical science, anaesthesia and surgery into close team work in April 1948 (Fig.4). This was the first of a series of 47 consecutive, minuted meetings of the Peacock Club from then until 1956.

An important contribution made by the club was in the surgery of mitral stenosis (Treasure 2016). A full account of the Peacock Club is published as a book, including full transcripts of the meetings with annotations and biographical information about those who attended and visited (Treasure 2017).

A facsimile of the minutes of the meeting of the Peacock Club is available as an Appendix to this article.


The author gratefully acknowledges the Alan Mason Chesney Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions for access to Dr Blalock’s papers; the Estate of Yousuf Karsh for the portrait of Blalock; Gordon Museum Guy’s Hospital, King’s College London Archives for access to Guy’s Hospital Gazette; London Metropolitan Archive for Guy’s Hospital committee papers and, the Royal Society of Medicine for the illustration from Guy’s Hospital Reports and the Wellcome Library.

This James Lind Library article has been republished in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 2017;110:376-379. Print PDF


Baker C, Brock R, Campbell M, Suzman S, Zak G (1949). Morbus coeruleus; a study of 50 cases after the Blalock-Taussig operation. British Heart Journal 11:170-198.

Blalock A, Bahnson H (1948). Operations performed and vascular anomalies encountered in the treatment of congenital pulmonic stenosis.
Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England 3:57-76.

Blalock A, Taussig H (1945). The surgical treatment of malformations of the heart in which there is pulmonary stenosis or pulmonary atresia. JAMA 128:189-202.

Brock R (1951). Discussion on the surgery of the heart and great vessels. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 44:995-1003.

Campbell M (1946). Congenital Heart Disease. Guy’s Hospital Gazette 50:150-156.

Campbell M (1947). Cyanosis and Morbus Coeruleus. Guy’s Hospital Gazette 62:43-48.

Campbell M (1948). The Blalock-Taussig operation for morbus coeruleus. Guy’s Hospital Reports 97:1-47.

Campbell M, Deuchar D (1953). Results of the Blalock-Taussig operation in 200 cases of morbus caeruleus. BMJ 1:349-358.

Conybeare J (1946). Textbook of Medicine. 8th ed. Edinburgh: E&S Livingstone.

Glasziou P, Chalmers I, Rawlins M, McCulloch P (2007). When are randomised trials unnecessary? Picking signal from noise. BMJ 334:349-351.

Kirklin JW, Dushane J, Patrick R, Donald D, Hetzel P, Harshbarger H, Wood E (1955). Intracardiac surgery with the aid of a mechanical pump-oxygenator system (gibbon type): report of eight cases. Proc Staff Meet Mayo Clin 30:201-206.

Kirklin J, Donald D, Harshbarger H, Hetzel P, Patrick T, Swan H, Wood E (1956) Studies in extracorporeal circulation. I. Applicability of Gibbon-type pump-oxygenator to human intracardiac surgery: 40 cases. Ann Surg 144:2-8.

Taussig H, Blalock A, Crafoord C, Gilchrist R, Tubbs O, Holmes Sellors T, Campbell M (1947a). Surgery of congenital heart disease. BMJ 2:462-463.

Taussig H, Blalock A, Brown J, Crafoord C, Gilchrist R, Tubbs O, Holmes Sellors T, Bramwell, C, Thomas, C, Campbell, M (1947b). Surgery of congenital heart diseases. Lancet 2:434-435.

Taussig H, Blalock A, Brown J, Crafoord C, Gilchrist R, Holmes Sellors T, Bramwell C, Campbell M, Suzman S (1948). The surgery of congenital heart disease. British Heart Journal 10:65-79.

Treasure T (2016). Documenting the dramatic effects of operative treatment of mitral stenosis. JLL Bulletin: Commentaries on the history of treatment evaluation (

Treasure T (2017). The Heart Club. 1st ed. London/New York: Clink Street.


Johns Hopkins Magazine

How to Get Your Child Ready for the First Day of Kindergarten | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Before Jaws, a larger, even more deadly beast swam the seas, and it still terrorizes high school students to this day.

Moby-Dick, with more than 200,000 words, is flooded with biblical analogies, Victorian pop-culture references, and long scientific yet poetic descriptions of whale fat.

The epic novel is textbook for what Mark Twain meant when he said, “A classic is a book which people praise and don't read.” Margaret “Meg” Guroff discovered this last spring when she and a friend agreed to reread Moby-Dick.

“I thought I had read it,” Guroff says, recalling a high school English class. “I think I even wrote a paper on it. But as soon as I started reading, I remembered that I had only pretended to read it.”

After a few pages, she turned to the Internet to Google its obscure analogies and seafaring terms. She kept detailed notes, and soon realized she was, for all intents and purposes, annotating Moby-Dick.

Though many people wondered why she would undertake such a project, Guroff says she found support from teachers and colleagues from her days in the Writing Seminars.

“Hopkins was where I learned to honor people's creative, or, in this case, quasi-creative efforts,” she says.

She also realized the surprise many readers experience when they get past the book's density and see how emotionally powerful, thought-provoking, yet impressively funny Moby-Dick can be. “I mean, it's full of bawdy humor and fart jokes,” Guroff says.

Thinking others might benefit from her annotation, Guroff and a few Web-savvy friends built, launching the Web site in July. (The Web site inspired the annotations you see here.

) In the first month, it notched 2,000 visits and more than 5,785 page views, along with praise from users for its simple, straightforward design and the readability of the annotations. “The site has gotten a lot more attention than I expected,” Guroff says.

“There are a lot of people out there who either love the book, or, at least, want to be able to read the book.”

Guroff might have even made some academic discoveries of her own, when she came upon the passage describing Captain Ahab stabbing a knife at a whale ” an Arkansas duelist,” as Melville put it. No one seemed to have annotated this passage, so she hunted down a possible source. “It seemed this was a reference to the famous fight called the Sandbar Fight, involving Jim Bowie,”

Guroff said. “It was a well-known story when Melville was writing, and he may have just dropped it in.”

She doesn't have any plans to annotate another work, though people often recommend she take on Ulysses.

Perhaps she'll travel to the former whaling town of Nantucket, Massachusetts? Or take a long seafaring voyage? “I'd love to, but I don't think I ever will be able to,” she said. “I get seasick.” — Robert White

Shelf Life

A Tomb on the Periphery, by John Domini, A&S '75 (Gival Press, 2008)
The novel's voice is Fabbrizio, a small-time grave robber who on a lark leads a heist at an archaeological dig near Naples. His accomplice-goad enters as a lovely American on the make, whose charms include nearly street-grade Italian. But she is not what she seems.

As the sauce thickens, we learn with Fab that she is as Italo as he is. Indeed, all of the characters, introduced on the fly as Fab whizzes by on his Suzuki, take on texture. If there is an uplift in all this, it is that the character development embraces a family of African clandestini who barely escape stereotypy to overcome a pair of Napolitano toughs.

Part of a trilogy, the novel was nominated for a National Book Award.

The Undercover Philosopher: A Guide to Detecting Shams, Lies and Delusions, by Michael Philips, A&S '72 (PhD) (Oneworld Publications, 2008) For all the effort of Philips to anoint his vocation with a here-today relevance — stalking ills even beyond the list in the subtitle — what he lays out is a far broader, well, philosophy.

His is a call to arms under a banner of cogent analysis: Beware of bias, eyewitness accounts, and certainly one's memory in weighing tough decisions. See through the self-interest of others but, by the way, cast a cold eye on your own motivations, too.

In the course of this, he slays many a personal dragon for baring faulty cogitation, resoundingly among doctors, medical writers, and politicians.

—Lew Diuguid, SAIS '63

Lisa Shelton, Bus '02 (MBA): Off to a Flying Start

The path that Lisa Shelton took from project lead at aerospace titan Northrop Grumman to founder of one of Baltimore City's most innovative and inspiring children's centers all started one day in 2002. That's when she pulled over, on a whim, in Rosemont-Walbrook, an economically depressed neighborhood in West Baltimore.

“I was having lunch on North Avenue,” recalls Shelton, who was raising her then 10-year-old daughter, Sandi. “I went into a child care center nearby just to see what it was . I came out and got back into my car and just started crying.”